Noam chomsky rethinking camelot jfk, the vietnam war, and us political culture


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Noam chomsky rethinking camelot jfk, the vietnam war, and us political culture

  1. 1. Rethinking Camelot Rethinking Camelot JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture Noam Chomsky Copyright © 1993 Go to the Table of ContentsAvailable in print from South End Press ($14 paperback, $30cloth). To order by credit card, or for information on quantitydiscounts, call 800-533-8478, or write: South End Press 116 Saint Botolph St. Boston, MA 02115Please add $3 shipping for the first book and 75 cents for eachadditional book. Archive | ZNet [3/9/2003 12:11:39 PM]
  2. 2. Rethinking Camelot: Contents Rethinking Camelot JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture Noam Chomsky Copyright © 1993 Table of Contents Note: Each chapter is divided into [segments] of about eight paragraphs each. Introduction · Contours and Context [1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12/13/14/15/16/17] One · From Terror to Aggression 1. The Doctrinal Framework [1/2/3/4] 2. Kennedys War [5/6/7] 3. Shared Ground [8/9] 4. Kennedys Plans and their Import [10/11] 5. The Prospects Look Bright [12] 6. JFK and Withdrawal: the Early Plans [13/14] 7. JFK and Withdrawal: the Dénouement [15/16/17/18/19] 8. The Presidential Transition [20] 9. LBJ and the Kennedy Doves [21/22] 10. A "Hostile Territory" [23] 11. Going North [24/25] 12. Militarily Strong, Politically Weak [26] 13. The Military View [26/27] Two · Interpretations (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:11:48 PM]
  3. 3. Rethinking Camelot: Contents 1. The Early Version [1/2] 2. The Record Revised [3/4/5/6/7/8] 3. The Hero-Villain Scenario [9/10/11/12/13] 4. Kennedy and the Political Norm [14/15] Glossary Bibliography Cover | Archive | ZNet (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:11:48 PM]
  4. 4. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [1/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet I N T R O D U C T I O N Contours and ContextThe chapters that follow deal with a crucial moment of modern history, the escalation of the US war inVietnam from state terror to aggression from 1961 through 1964, setting the stage for the far moredestructive assault that followed. They were intended for another book, Year 501: The ConquestContinues, which is concerned with central themes of the 500-year European conquest of the world thatwas commemorated on October 12, 1992 and the forms they are likely to assume in the coming years.The war planning for Indochina illustrates rather clearly some leading features of the Columbian era. Itcould be regarded as a kind of case study, one of unusual interest and import. Nevertheless, the materialseemed special enough to warrant separate treatment. To keep this discussion more or less self-contained,I will sketch some of the relevant context, in part taken from Year 501.1Apart from the terrible consequences for the region itself, the Indochina wars had a considerable impacton world order and the general cultural climate. They accelerated the breakdown of the post-World WarII economic system and the shift to a "tripolar" global economy; and the internationalization of thateconomy, along with its corollary, the extension of the two-tiered Third World social model to theindustrial societies themselves as production is shifted to high-repression, low-wage areas. They alsocontributed materially to the cultural revival of the 1960s, which has since extended and deepened. Thenotable improvement in the moral and cultural climate was a factor in the "crisis of democracy" -- thetechnical term for the threat of democracy -- that so dismayed elite opinion across the spectrum, leadingto extraordinary efforts to reimpose orthodoxy, with mixed effects.One significant change, directly attributable to the Indochina war, is a growing popular reluctance totolerate violence, terror, and subversion. There was no protest or concern when the US was running amurderous terror state in South Vietnam in the 1950s, or when Kennedy escalated the violence tooutright aggression in 1961-1962, or when he and his successor stepped up the attack against the civilianpopulation through 1964. If the President wanted to send the US air force to bomb villages in some far-off land, to napalm people who were resisting the US attack or happened to be in the way, to destroycrops and forests by chemical warfare, that was not our concern. Kennedys war aroused littleenthusiasm, a factor in high-level planning as we will see, but virtually no protest. As late as 1964, evenbeyond, forums on the war were often -- literally -- in someones living room, or in a church with half adozen people, or a classroom where a scattered audience was assembled by advertising talks on thesituation in Vietnam and several other countries. (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:23 PM]
  5. 5. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [1/17]The press supported state violence throughout, though JFK regarded it as an enemy because of tacticalcriticism and grumbling. Much fantasy has been spun in later years about crusading journalists exposinggovernment lies; what they exposed was the failure of tactics to achieve ends they fully endorsed. TheNew York Times, expressing the conventional line, explained that the US forces attacking South Vietnamwere leading "the free worlds fight to contain aggressive Communism" (Robert Trumbull), defendingSouth Vietnam "against proxy armies of Soviet Russia" just as the French colonialists had sought todefend Indochina from "foreign-inspired and supplied Communists" (Hanson Baldwin). The US armyand its client forces sought to "resist" the Vietcong, southern peasants who "infiltrate" into their ownhomes and are "trying to subvert this country" in which they live (David Halberstam), enjoying morepopular support than George Washington could claim, as government specialists ruefully conceded.Kennedys brutal strategic hamlet program, which aimed to drive millions of peasants into concentrationcamps, was a praiseworthy effort to offer them "better protection against the Communists" -- local peoplewhom they generally supported -- marred only by flaws of execution (Homer Bigart). Such methodshaving failed, President Johnson decided in early 1965 "to step up resistance to Vietcong infiltration inSouth Vietnam" (Tom Wicker) -- the Vietcong being South Vietnamese, as recognized on all sides. Tothe end (indeed, to the present), the media reflexively adopted the framework of government propaganda,tolerating even the most outlandish fabrications and absurdities. Exceptions did exist, but they were rare.2As President Johnson sharply increased the attack against South Vietnam in early 1965, also extendingthe bombing to the North and introducing US combat forces, there were stirrings of protest, though theywere limited and aroused bitter antagonism. Take Boston, perhaps the center of US liberalism. The firstpublic protest against the war was in October 1965 on the Boston Common, with a huge police presence.It was violently disrupted by counterdemonstrators. The media angrily denounced the audacity of thosewho had sought to voice (embarrassingly timid) protests, but were fortunately silenced; not a word couldbe heard above the din. The next major public event was scheduled for March 1966, when hundreds ofthousands of US troops were rampaging in South Vietnam. The organizers decided to hold meetings inchurches, to reduce the likelihood of violence. The churches were attacked and defaced while policestood calmly by -- until they too came under the barrage. In suburban towns, mothers and children werepelted and abused when they stood silently in protest against the escalating war. It was not until late 1966that the climate began to shift.By the late 1960s much of the public was opposed to the war on principled grounds, unlike elite sectors,who kept largely to "pragmatic" objections of cost (to us). This component of the "crisis of democracy"was considered severe enough to merit a special designation -- the "Vietnam syndrome," a disease withsuch symptoms as dislike for war crimes and atrocities. When Ronald Reagan sought to emulateKennedy in the first weeks of his term, preparing the ground for a direct attack on "aggressiveCommunism" throughout Central America, the media went along as usual, but public protest quicklyinduced the Administration to back down in fear that its more central programs would be prejudiced;press critique of Administration fabrications followed some months later. The Reagan Administrationwas compelled to resort to clandestine international terrorism, at unprecedented levels, to avoid publicscrutiny.An early Bush Administration National Security Policy Review, leaked on the day US ground forces (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:23 PM]
  6. 6. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [1/17]attacked in the Gulf, concluded that "much weaker enemies" (meaning any acceptable target) must bedefeated "decisively and rapidly," because any delay or resistance would "undercut political support,"recognized to be thin. Classical forms of intervention are no longer an option, the domestic base havingeroded. No more Marines marauding and terrorizing for years as in Wilsons days, or US Air Forceplanes bombing the South Vietnamese countryside in the Kennedy-Johnson style. The options are limitedto clandestine terror with foreign agents, so that the media can pretend they do not see and the public iskept in ignorance; or "decisive and rapid" blows against an enemy too weak to strike back after a hugecampaign to portray him as a demon on the verge of destroying us.Despite some changes, leading themes persist, and merit attention and thought. Naturally there arevariations as circumstances change, and the world is far more complex than any brief description of it.Nevertheless, we gain no little understanding of contemporary affairs by placing them in a largerframework of policies, goals, and actions with cultural and institutional roots that endure over longperiods. Go to the next segment.1 See 501 for much further discussion and sources. Also DD, and earlier work cited there.2On the media from 1950 through 1985, see MC and sources cited. On developments reviewed below,see my books cited in 501, and sources cited. (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:23 PM]
  7. 7. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [2/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 2/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet1. Military Science and SpiritAdam Smith described the voyages of Columbus and Vasco da Gama, opening up the WesternHemisphere and Asia to European conquest and setting the stage for the devastation of Africa as well, as"the two greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind." Writing in 1776, heunderstood very well the "essential contribution" of these achievements to the rapid development ofEurope, and was no less aware that they were "ruinous and destructive" to the populations subjected to"the savage injustice of the Europeans," which brought "dreadful misfortunes." With "the superiority offorce" the Europeans commanded, "they were enabled to commit with impunity every sort of injustice inthose remote countries" that they reached.The crucial role of Europes mastery of the means and culture of violence is substantiated bycontemporary scholarship. The inhabitants of Asia and the Western Hemisphere were "appalled by the all-destructive fury of European warfare," military historian Geoffrey Parker observes: "It was thanks to theirmilitary superiority, rather than to any social, moral or natural advantage, that the white peoples of theworld managed to create and control" their "global hegemony," historys first. "Europes incessant wars"were responsible for "stimulating military science and spirit to a point where Europe would be crushinglysuperior to the rest when they did meet," historian V.G. Kiernan comments aptly.3These traditional features of European culture emerged with great clarity in the Indochina wars. There is adirect line of descent from the English colonists who carried out "the utter extirpation of all the Indians inmost populous parts of the Union" by means "more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct ofthe conquerors of Mexico and Peru" (Secretary of War Gen. Henry Knox, 1794), to the "ethnic cleansing"of the continent, to the murderous conquest of the Philippines and the rampages in the Caribbean region,to the onslaught against Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.4An indispensable feature of the "military science and spirit" in which European culture excelled, revealedonce again in the Indochina wars, is the talent described by Alexis de Tocqueville as he watched the USArmy driving Indians from their homes "in the middle of winter," with snow "frozen hard on the ground,"a "solemn spectacle" of murder and degradation, "the triumphal march of civilization across the desert."He was particularly struck that the conquerors could deprive people of their rights and exterminate them"with singular felicity, tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without shedding blood, and withoutviolating a single great principle of morality in the eyes of the world." It was impossible to destroy peoplewith "more respect for the laws of humanity," he wrote.The more humane thought it advisable to make the savages "happy and useful" so as to save "the pain andexpense of expelling or destroying them" (Jeffersons commissioners, preparing the next stage in the near- (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:26 PM]
  8. 8. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [2/17]extermination of the Cherokees, continued under de Tocquevilles eyes, consummated by self-styled"philanthropists and humanitarians" half a century later). "We become in reality their benefactors" byexpelling the natives from their homes, President Monroe explained as the groundwork was being laid forJacksons Indian Removal Act. The perpetrators knew what they were doing, if they chose to know.Secretary of War Knox warned that "a future historian may mark the causes of this destruction of thehuman race in sable colors," looking askance at the genocidal practices of his countrymen. The "men ofvirtue" who ran the country also expressed occasional qualms. Well after he left power, John QuincyAdams became an outspoken critic of slavery and policy towards the indigenous population -- policiesthat he described as "among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring [it]to judgement." He hoped that his belated stand might somehow aid "that hapless race of nativeAmericans, which we are exterminating with such merciless and perfidious cruelty." But the recantationby the intellectual father of Manifest Destiny and domination of the hemisphere had no effect on theextermination, which continued in full ruthlessness.5Adams spoke from firsthand experience. One notable case, with long-term consequences reaching directlyto Indochina, was the "exhibition of murder and plunder known as the First Seminole War, part ofthe American policy aimed at removing or eliminating native Americans from the Southeast," as WilliamWeeks describes General Andrew Jacksons "campaign of terror, devastation, and intimidation" againstthe Seminoles in 1818 in Spanish Florida, in his study of Adamss diplomacy. The Spanish Ministerconcluded that "the war against the Seminoles has been merely a pretext for General Jackson to fall, as aconqueror, upon the Spanish provinces...for the purposes of establishing there the dominion of thisrepublic upon the odious basis of violence and bloodshed" -- "strong language from a diplomat," Weekswrites, "yet a painfully precise description of how the United States first came to control the province ofFlorida."As Secretary of State, Adams had the task of justifying what General Jackson had achieved. So he did,using the opportunity to establish the doctrine of executive war without congressional approval that wasextended to new dimensions in the Indochina wars. Adams presented the justification and novel doctrinein his "greatest state paper," as the noted contemporary historian Samuel Flagg Bemis calls it admiringly,a document that impressed Thomas Jefferson as being "among the ablest I have ever seen, both as to logicand style." This racist diatribe, full of extraordinary lies, was designed to "transform the officiallyunauthorized conquest of foreign territory [Florida] into a patriotic act of self-defense and the UnitedStates from aggressor into aggrieved victim," Weeks observes. He suggests that Adams may have beeninspired by Tacitus, "his favorite historian," who caustically observed that "Crime once exposed had norefuge but in audacity." Steeped in the classical tradition, the founders of the Republic appreciated thesentiment. Go to the next segment.3 Kiernan, Lords, 15 6. 501, ch. 1. (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:26 PM]
  9. 9. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [2/17]4 See particularly Drinnon, Facing West. Knox cited by Horsman, Expansion, 64.5 Ibid. 122, 64. On the Cherokees, see 501, ch. 9.3. Weeks, JQA, 193. (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:26 PM]
  10. 10. Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 3/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetIn Adamss version, Jackson sought to defend Americans from "all the runaway negroes, all the savageIndians, all the pirates, and all the traitors to their country" who were mobilized by the British to "wagean exterminating war" against these innocents -- a mélange of "half-truths, falsehoods, and powerfulrhetoric," Weeks shows. In reality, the aim of Jacksons "bloodthirsty tactics" and aggression in violationof the Constitution was to conquer the Spanish-held territory and exterminate runaway slaves and Indianswho had sought to escape the savagery of the colonists -- "mingled hordes of lawless Indians andnegroes" who were waging "savage, servile, exterminating war against the United States," in the rhetoricthat impressed Jefferson and modern scholars. Two innocent Englishmen were executed by theconquerors for conspiring to incite the savages, an act that Adams commended for its "salutary efficacyfor terror and example." The story ended 20 years later, Weeks continues, with the "second war ofextermination against" the Seminoles, "in which the remaining members of the tribe either moved westor were killed or forced to take refuge in the dense swamps of Florida," surviving today "in the nationalconsciousness as the mascot of Florida State University." If the Nazis had been victorious, perhaps Jewsand Gypsies would survive as mascots of the Universities of Munich and Freiburg.6"In defending Jackson," Weeks writes, "Adams was implicitly defending Indian removal, slavery, andthe use of military force without congressional approval," establishing an important precedent that holdsuntil today, in the last case.Extermination of the lesser breeds with utter respect for the laws of humanity is a pervasive feature of theEuropean conquest. Massacre of people who are utterly defenseless is considered a particular mark ofheroism, as we saw again during the 1991 Gulf slaughter. A concomitant is the standard phrase "hero ofX," referring to the manager who sat shuffling papers in some quiet room while his minions werefighting the battle of X, slogging through jungles and deserts, trying to escape enemy fire, or, preferably,raining death and destruction from afar. Murder of infants by starvation and disease through economicwarfare, a US specialty for many years, is considered less meritorious, therefore concealed by thedoctrinal institutions.The ability to churn out self-acclaim for unspeakable atrocities is highly regarded, virtually an entryticket to the ranks of the respectable intellectual culture. The practices are routine, unnoticed, like the airwe breathe. It is, for example, hardly likely that the producers of the evening news cringe inembarrassment as they present George Bush in his farewell address, wiping away a tear as he recalled theUS troops who reached out in sympathy to pleading Iraqi soldiers, thinking perhaps of the "turkey shoot"on the Basra highway or the B-52 attacks on conscripts hiding in the sand -- or the Shiite and Kurdishcivilians left to the tender mercies of Saddam Hussein as Bush returned to support for his old friend inthe interests of "stability" a few weeks later, with nods of sober approval in news and commentary. Andnone would be so rude as to raise a question about the thousands of children dying as Bush and Saddam (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:28 PM]
  11. 11. their little games.7A related task is to reshape history so as to demonstrate the nobility of our intentions and the lofty idealsthat guide us as we bring "dreadful misfortunes" to those lucky enough to fall under our sway. The morehard-headed warn that we should not "revert to form" with the Cold War ended, "granting idealism a nearexclusive hold on our foreign policy" as we slip back unthinkingly to our role of world benefactor whileignoring "the national interest"; the world is too harsh a place for us to be guided solely by the"Wilsonian idealism" that has so long lighted our path (New York Times chief diplomatic correspondentThomas Friedman, quoting a high official with approval). This sage counsel also has deep roots. As thecountry celebrated an earlier victory in 1783, a committee warned Congress not to go to excess in"gratify[ing] their better feelings in acts of humanity"; "generosity becomes bankrupt and frustrates itsown designs by prodigal bounty," the committee explained as it recommended the further robbery ofIndian lands.8 The reverential awe over our humanitarian intervention in Indochina, which would fillmany volumes, has also been accompanied by regular warning that our generosity might be excessive,possibly harmful to the "national interest."Falsification of the historical record, often reaching quite impressive levels, can persist for manycenturies, as illustrated by the fate of those who faced "the savage injustice of the Europeans" from theearly years of the conquest. It was not until the cultural revival of the 1960s that it became possible toconfront some of the realities, even in scholarship, apart from rare and largely ignored exceptions.It would not be fair to imply that the regular fabrication of useful history passes entirely unnoticed. Inmid-1992, the New York Times Book Review devoted an essay to this abomination, with a lead headlinerunning across the top of the front page reading: "You Cant Murder History." The thought was jarring, toput it mildly, as the quincentenary approached, with its ample evidence that history can be murdered withthe same "singular felicity" as people; the Times archives alone provide an instructive record. No needfor concern, however. The essay kept to a proper topic: the murder of history in "the old Soviet Union,"where history "was like cancer in the human body, an invisible presence whose existence is bravelydenied but against which every conceivable weapon is mobilized." The author recalls "those all-powerfulSoviet officials whose job it was to suppress the publics memory of this grisly episode" of the murder ofthe Czar and his family, but who, in the end, "could not hold back the tide."9Unfortunate commissars, whose power base had collapsed. Go to the next segment.6 Ibid., ch. 5.7 For numerous examples, see TTT, chapter 3.9, and 501, chapters 1, 9, among many other sources. The (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:28 PM]
  12. 12. spectacle was presented with proper awe on network TV (Peter Jennings, ABC 7PM, Jan. 5), butkept from the Newspaper of Record (NYT, Jan. 6, 1993). To plumb the depths, however, one must lookelsewhere, for example, to the gushing tribute to colonialist atrocities ("colonialism is an act ofgenerosity and idealism of which only rising civilizations are capable," etc.) by Angelo Codevilla ofStanford Universitys Hoover Institute (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 7, 1993). For similar effusions in theBritish press, see my Raymond Williams memorial lecture, London, Nov. 1992. In a seminar at MIT, USCensus Bureau specialist Beth Daponte estimated 111,000 civilian casualties from the effects of the Gulfwar (AP, AFP, Age, Australia, Sept. 10, 1992). In Figaro (Paris), Claude Lorieux reports from Iraq thatthe worst suffering from the embargo is among the Shiites in the South, citing UNICEF figures (WorldPress Review, Jan. 1993). A Harvard Study Team estimated that 50,000 children died in the first eightmonths of 1991, many from the effects of radioactive artillery shells (Eric Hoskins, op ed, NYT, Jan. 21,1993, a rare mention of the ongoing disaster).8 Friedman, NYT, Jan. 12, 1992; Horsman, Expansion, 15f.9 Frederick Starr, NYT Book Review, July 19, 1992. (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:28 PM]
  13. 13. Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 4/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet2. The Deeper RootsThe review of the planning record that follows might be faulted for keeping too close to the surface,ignoring the deeper roots of policy. That is fair enough. Policy flows from institutions, reflecting theneeds of power and privilege within them, and can be understood only if these factors are recognized,including the case now under examination.Every age of human history, Adam Smith argued with some justice, reveals the workings of "the vilemaxim of the masters of mankind": "All for ourselves, and nothing for other People." The "masters ofmankind" in the half-millenium of the European conquest included Europes merchant-warriors, theindustrialists and financiers who followed in their path, the supranational corporations and financialinstitutions that are creating what the business press now calls a "new imperial age," and the variousforms of state power that have been mobilized in their interests. The process continues today as newgoverning forms coalesce to serve the needs of the masters in a "de facto world government": the IMF,World Bank, G-7, GATT and other executive agreements.10Institutional structures guided by the vile maxim tend naturally towards two-tiered societies: the masterswith their agents, and the rabble who either serve them or are superfluous. State power commonlyperpetuates these distinctions, a fact stressed again by Adam Smith, who condemned mercantilism andcolonialism as harmful to the people of England generally, but of great benefit to the "merchants andmanufacturers" who were the "principal architects" of policy. State policy often incurs great social costs,but with rare exceptions, the interests of the "principal architects" are "most peculiarly attended to," as inthis case. The lesson holds as we move on to the modern era, often applying, in an internationalizedeconomy, even after military defeat. Consider, for example, how the interests of the Nazi collaborators inthe corporate and financial worlds were "most peculiarly attended to" as the US occupation restored themto their proper place.11In the "new imperial age," trade is increasingly becoming a form of centrally-managed interchange,guided by a highly "visible hand" within particular Transnational Corporations, phenomena of greatimportance in themselves, which also bear on the ideological trappings. World Bank economists HermanDaly and Robert Goodland point out that in prevailing economic theory, "firms are islands of centralplanning in a sea of market relationships." "As the islands get bigger," they add, "there is really no reasonto claim victory for the market principle" -- particularly as the islands approach the scale of the sea,which departs radically from free market principles, and always has, because the powerful will notsubmit to these destructive rules.12The current phase of the global conquest is described with various euphemisms: the world is divided into (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:30 PM]
  14. 14."North and South," "developed and developing societies." Meanwhile, the basic contours remain, evenbecoming clearer as the gap between masters and victims increases, sharply in recent years. Within therich societies, the effect has been most notable in the US, UK, and Australia, the three countries thatflirted (in limited ways) with the neoliberal doctrines they preach, with predictably damaging results.Internationally, the gap -- better, the chasm -- has doubled since 1960 in the course of a majorcatastrophe of capitalism that swept over much of the traditional colonial domains, apart from theperiphery of Japan, where standard economic doctrines are not taken seriously and the state was powerfulenough to control capital as well as labor. In significant measure, the deterioration of conditions in theSouth is attributable to the neoliberal policies imposed by the de facto world government while theindustrial world pursued the opposite path, becoming increasingly protectionist (notably ReaganiteAmerica) in tandem with free market bombast.13Neoliberal theology, to be sure, gets a good press in the Third World. It is highly popular among eliteswho stand to benefit by policies that enrich them while the general population sink into misery anddespair, but dont write articles about their fate. Western ideologues may therefore speak of the grandvictory of the doctrines we uphold (for others, rejecting them for ourselves at will).These processes sometimes yield cheerful macroeconomic statistics, in which case the result is hailed as"an economic miracle": Brazil under the neo-Nazi Generals who took power with the help of the JFK-LBJ administrations is a well-known case. Meanwhile, as the Third World model extends to the richindustrial world, we observe again Smiths lesson at work: wealth accrues to the wealthy and the businesspress ponders what it calls "The Paradox of 92: Weak Economy, Strong Profits." Go to the next segment.10 James Morgan, lead article, Weekend FT, Financial Times (London), April 25/26, 1992.11 See Simpson, Splendid, for a comprehensive review for Germany. On the parallel accomplishmentselsewhere, see DD, ch. 10.12Daly and Goodland, "An Ecological Economic Assessment of Deregulation of InternationalCommerce Under GATT," Draft, Environment Department, World Bank, 1992.13 In addition to references of note 1, see Edward Herman, "Doublespeak," Z magazine, Nov. 1992, andmy "`Mandate for Change, or Business as Usual," Z, Feb. 1993. (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:30 PM]
  15. 15. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [5/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 5/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetSmiths lesson applies directly to the Indochina wars. These are commonly described as an Americandefeat, a classic case of costly overreach. At the dissident extreme of scholarship and media commentary,well after the corporate world called for the enterprise to be liquidated as too costly, the Vietnam warwas finally perceived as a "disaster" that arose "mainly through an excess of righteousness anddisinterested benevolence" (John King Fairbank) and "blundering efforts to do good" (Anthony Lewis);hawks took a harsher line, accusing the peace movement, the media, and other criminals of turning whatall regard as a "noble cause" into a costly failure.The costs were real, including the incalculable cost of tens of thousands of American soldiers killed. Buta realistic assessment requires the perspective of class analysis that Smith took for granted, as does thebusiness press today, if without his clear-eyed frankness. In 1973, the editor of the Far EasternEconomic Review described the US war as a success, which had "won time for Southeast Asia, allowingneighboring countries to build up their economies and their sense of identity to a degree of stabilitywhich has equipped them to counter subversion, to provide a more attractive alternative to the peasantthan the promises of the terrorist who steals down from the hills or from the jungles at night," so that theregion is becoming one of the worlds great opportunities for enrichment by "American businessmen"and their Japanese and European counterparts.Particularly encouraging to such more realistic observers was the "boiling bloodbath" in Indonesia, asTime magazine enthusiastically termed it, which littered the country with hundreds of thousands ofcorpses, mostly landless peasants, eliminating the only mass-based political party and opening the richesof Indonesia to Western plunder. This "gleam of light in Asia" (James Reston, New York Times) evokedunrestrained euphoria in the West and much acclaim for the firm US stand in Vietnam, whichencouraged the Generals and provided a "shield" to protect them as they carried out their grim ifnecessary work. Only a shade less gratifying was the military coup that established the rule of the torturerand killer Marcos in the Philippines, and similar achievements in Thailand and elsewhere, "providing amore attractive alternative" -- to investors, if not to the peasant -- than the social and economicdevelopment that was feared in an independent Vietnam.14The US achieved its basic goals in Indochina, though not the maximal goal of duplicating such triumphsas Indonesia. The years that followed have solidified the accomplishment, in a manner to which wereturn. Coming back to Smiths lesson, though this particular episode of "the savage injustice of theEuropeans" may have been costly for the population of the United States, the interests of the "principalarchitects" of policy were, once again, "most peculiarly attended to."Throughout history, the rabble have sought more freedom and justice, and have often won improvedconditions of life. The "men of best quality" have been less than delighted with these developments. (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:32 PM]
  16. 16. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [5/17]There has been broad agreement among them that the rabble should not be permitted to interfere in themanagement of public affairs: they should be spectators, not participants, as modern democratic theoryholds, kept in line with "necessary illusions" and "emotionally potent oversimplifications" (ReinholdNiebuhr, expressing standard views). As the rabble have gained political and civil rights, it becomesincreasingly difficult to control them by force; accordingly, it is necessary to control their thought, toisolate them, to undermine popular organizations (unions, etc.) that might provide ways for people withlimited resources to enter in a meaningful way into the political arena. In the United States, thesemeasures have been refined to an unusual degree as a highly class-conscious corporate sector has soughtto "control the public mind" in perhaps the worlds most free society. The emerging de facto worldgovernment offers new means to achieve the long-sought ideal of depriving democratic structures of anysubstantive meaning. Its decision-making apparatus is largely immune from public interference, evenawareness."Stability" at home requires that elite elements be indoctrinated with proper beliefs while the rabble aredispersed and marginalized, and fed their necessary illusions in simplified form. A significantdevelopment of the past 30 years has been the failure of the doctrinal institutions to achieve these ends.Control of the rabble can be expected to become an ever more serious problem as the Third World modelextends at home. Go to the next segment.14See FRS, ch. 1.V (reprinted in Peck, Chomsky Reader). 501, ch. 5, on the reaction to the 1965Indonesia bloodbath. See PEHR, vol. I, on the general pattern. (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:32 PM]
  17. 17. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [6/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 6/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet3. Keeping on CourseOur "excess of righteousness and disinterested benevolence" in Vietnam is commonly attributed to theCold War, the felt need "to resist every hint of Soviet expansion wherever it occurred, even in areas thatwere not vital to our interests," in the phrase that has grown stale through overuse.15 The doctrine is notwholly false, but must be translated from Newspeak to English. The term "Soviet expansion" servedthroughout the Cold War as a cover for policy initiatives that could not be justified, whatever their actualgrounds.The Indochina wars provide a revealing illustration of the general practice. On deciding in 1950 tosupport Frances effort to quell the threat of independent nationalism in Vietnam, Washington assigned tothe intelligence services the task of demonstrating that Ho Chi Minh was a puppet of Moscow or Peiping(either would do). Despite diligent efforts, the task proved hopeless. Evidence of "Kremlin-directedconspiracy" could be found "in virtually all countries except Vietnam," which appeared to be "ananomaly." Nor could links with China be detected. But all was not lost. Analysts concluded that Moscowconsiders the Viet Minh "sufficiently loyal to be trusted to determine their day-to-day policy withoutsupervision." Soviet expansion is thereby established, and the formula is available to every sobercommentator -- though in retrospect, it is permissible to say that the fears were exaggerated. One of thefew really surprising disclosures in the Pentagon Papers was that in an intelligence record of 25 years,the analysts could find only one paper -- a staff paper not submitted -- that even raised the questionwhether Hanoi was pursuing its national interests, not following the orders of its foreign masters. Onecan scarcely exaggerate the effectiveness of doctrinal need in enforcing a kind of institutional stupidity.16The actual reasons for terror and subversion, and finally aggression, derive from the basic logic of North-South relations, developed with unusual explicitness in the early postwar period. Recognizing that theyheld unprecedented power, US planners undertook to organize the world in the interests of the masters,"assum[ing], out of self-interest, responsibility for the welfare of the world capitalist system," as the chiefhistorian of the CIA, Gerald Haines, puts the matter in a highly-regarded study of US policy in LatinAmerica. Each region of the South was assigned its proper place. Latin America was to be taken over bythe United States, its rivals Britain and France excluded. Policy there, Haines explains, was designed "todevelop larger and more efficient sources of supply for the American economy, as well as createexpanded markets for U.S. exports and expanded opportunities for the investment of American capital," a"neocolonial, neomercantilist policy" that permitted local development only "as long as it did notinterfere with American profits and dominance." The Monroe Doctrine was also effectively extended tothe Middle East, where the huge oil resources, and crucially the enormous profits they generated, were tobe controlled by the US and its British client, operating behind an "Arab Façade" of pliant familydictatorships. As explained by George Kennan and his State Department Policy Planning Staff, Africa (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:35 PM]
  18. 18. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [6/17]was to be "exploited" for the reconstruction of Europe, while Southeast Asia would "fulfill its majorfunction as a source of raw materials for Japan and Western Europe," helping them to overcome the"dollar gap" so that they would be able to purchase US manufacturing exports and provide lucrativeopportunities for US investors.In short, the Third World was to be kept in its traditional service role, providing cheap labor andresources, markets, investment opportunities, and other amenities for the masters, with local elitespermitted to share in the plunder as long as they cooperate. By the same logic, the major threat to USinterests was always recognized to be "radical and nationalistic regimes" that are responsive to popularpressures for "immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses" and development fordomestic needs. Such "ultranationalism" is unacceptable, irrespective of its political coloration, becauseit conflicts with the demand for "a political and economic climate conducive to private investment," withadequate repatriation of profits and "protection of our raw materials."An "ultranationalist" regime becomes an even greater threat if it appears to be succeeding in ways thatmight be meaningful to other poor and oppressed people. In that case it is a "virus" that might "infect"others, a "rotten apple" that might "spoil the barrel." It is a threat to "stability," that is, to unhamperedpursuit of the vile maxim. A virus must be destroyed, and surrounding regions inoculated to ensure thatthe disease does not spread. That may require measures of extreme savagery, which are, accordingly,acceptable or even admirable. The joyous reaction to the "boiling bloodbath" as General Suharto tookpower in Indonesia in 1965 is a dramatic illustration; the self-acclaim for the bloodbath that the USorchestrated in Central America in the 1980s is another. Examples are all too easy to find. North-Southrelations, and their ideological cover, quite regularly fall into this pattern.The Indochina wars are no exception. From the outset, it was understood that "Communist Ho Chi Minhis the strongest and perhaps the ablest figure in Indochina and that any suggested solution which excludeshim is an expedient of uncertain outcome" (State Department, 1948). At no point did US planners deludethemselves that they had been able to concoct an alternative to Communist-led Vietnamese nationalism;the possibility of a "third force" in the South dismayed them no less, since it too would be independent.Nationalist appeal aside, intelligence warned in 1959 that the US client state in the South could notcompete economically with the Hanoi regime, where economic growth was faster and would continue tobe, because "the national effort is concentrated on building for the future," not enriching the inheritors ofthe colonialist legacy. The more general problem was the "ideological threat" of Communism: "thepossibility that the Chinese Communists can prove to Asians by progress in China that Communistmethods are better and faster than democratic methods," as Kennedy adviser Walt Rostow put it.Adopting this conventional viewpoint, the State Department recommended that the US try to retard theeconomic development of the Communist Asian states.17In Indochina, the only way to create deprivation and suffering in the North and protect the US client inthe South from "the assault from the inside," as Kennedy termed the resistance to his aggression, was toincrease violence. Our "blundering efforts to do good" could take no other course, given thecircumstances. And as always, the same logic dictated the support for murderous terror states elsewherein the region, to protect them from the virus. These are standard features of North-South relations, (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:35 PM]
  19. 19. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [6/17]exhibited with unusual clarity in the case of Indochina, but rated X, unacceptable for a general audience. Go to the next segment.15 Lars Erik Nelson, "Bushs wise counsel on the use of force," Boston Globe, Jan. 9, 1993.16 For details, see FRS, ch. 1. V (Peck, op. cit.).17 Ibid. (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:35 PM]
  20. 20. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [7/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 7/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetExtremes of state terror are commonly necessary "to destroy permanently a perceived threat to theexisting structure of socioeconomic privilege by eliminating the political participation of the numericalmajority...," in the words of the leading academic specialist on human rights in Latin America, LarsSchoultz, describing the goals of the neo-Nazi National Security States that had their roots in KennedyAdministration policies designed to prevent the Cuban rot from spreading. The US client regime in SouthVietnam was driven to the same course.Despite their best efforts, responsible intellectuals often find it difficult to conceal US governmentsupport for these measures. That is a problem, because US leaders are benign, humane, committed todemocracy and freedom and human rights, and otherwise saintly in disposition, by doctrinal fiat. Whentheir dedication to savage atrocities is revealed too clearly, new devices are needed to resolve thecontradiction between truth and Higher Truth. One technique is the doctrine of "change of course." Yes,bad things have happened as we departed from our noble course for unfortunate though understandablereasons; but now it is all past, we can forget history, and march forward proudly to a grand future. Thosewho cannot manage such routines with a straight face would do well to put aside any thought of a careeras a respectable commentator on affairs.The current variant of this standard device is to attribute the crimes committed by the US and its clientsto the Cold War. With virtue victorious at last, we can now return to our humanitarian mission ofbringing peace, joy, and plenty to suffering people everywhere. We can garb ourselves again in themantle of "Wilsonian idealism," though bearing in mind that its a tough world, with many villains readyto assault us if we do not keep up our guard.To select an example at random, after Indonesia committed the error of carrying out a massacre in frontof TV cameras and brutally beating two US journalists in Dili, East Timor, in November 1991, theeditors of the Washington Post, to their credit, suggested that the US "should be able to bring itsinfluence to bear on this issue," noting that for 16 years Washington had been supporting an Indonesianinvasion and forced annexation that had killed "up to a third of the population." The reasons, the Postexplained, is that "the American government was in the throes of its Vietnam agony, unprepared to exertitself for a cause" that could harm relations "with its sturdy anti-Communist ally in Jakarta. But that wasthen. Today, with the East-West conflict gone, almost everyone is readier to consider legitimate calls forself-determination."18The relation of Indonesias invasion to the East-West conflict was a flat zero. Unexplained is why, in thethroes of its Vietnam agony, the US found it necessary to increase the flow of weapons to its Indonesianclient at the time of the 1975 invasion, and to render the UN "utterly ineffective in whatever measures itundertook" to counter the aggression, as UN Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan proudly described his (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:37 PM]
  21. 21. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [7/17]success in following State Department orders. Or why the Carter Administration felt obligated to sharplyaccelerate the arms flow in 1978 when Indonesian supplies were becoming depleted and the slaughterwas reaching truly genocidal proportions. Or why the Free Press felt that duty required that it reduce itscoverage of these events as the slaughter mounted, reaching zero as it peaked in 1978, completelyignoring easily accessible refugees, respected Church sources, human rights groups, and specialists onthe topic, in favor of Indonesian Generals and State Department prevaricators. Or why today it refuses totell us about the rush of Western oil companies to join Indonesia in the plunder of Timorese oil. All isexplained by the Cold War, now behind us, so that we may dismiss past errors to the memory hole andreturn to the path of righteousness.Absurdity aside, the thesis is instantly refuted by a look at what came before the Cold War and whatimmediately followed it; no change in the willingness to resort to repression, subversion, violence, andterror is detectable from Woodrow Wilson and his predecessors through the Cold War and beyond. Thehistorical record, however, has no bearing on Higher Truths. The thesis stands, whatever the facts; suchis the way with doctrinal necessity.More interestingly, the thesis mistakes the nature of the Cold War, another topic that merits at least abrief look, given its importance for understanding the events of this 70-year period -- including theIndochina wars from 1945 until today -- and the doctrinal framework that is designed to provide themwith an acceptable cast. Go to the next segment.18 Editorial, WP, Nov. 20, 1991. (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:37 PM]
  22. 22. Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 8/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet4. The Kremlin ConspiracyIn no small measure, the Cold War itself can be understood as a phase of the "North-Southconfrontation," so unusual in scale that it took on a life of its own, but grounded in the familiar logic.Eastern Europe was the original "Third World," diverging from the West along a fault line runningthrough Germany even before the Columbian era, the West beginning to develop, the East becoming itsservice area. By the early 20th century, much of the region was a quasi-colonial dependency of the West.The Bolshevik takeover in 1917 was immediately recognized to be "ultranationalist," henceunacceptable. Furthermore, it was a "virus," with substantial appeal in the Third World.The Western invasion of the Soviet Union was therefore justified in defense against "the the very survival of the capitalist order," the leading diplomatic historian John LewisGaddis comments today, reiterating the basic position of US diplomacy of the 1920s: "The fundamentalobstacle" to recognition of the USSR, the chief of the Eastern European Division of the State Departmentheld, "is the world revolutionary aims and practices of the rulers of that country." These "practices," ofcourse, did not involve literal aggression; rather, interfering with Western designs, which is tantamountto aggression. The Kremlin conspiracy to take over the world was therefore established, a recordreplayed in later years as other ultranationalists and viruses were assigned to the category of "Sovietexpansion."The industrial West was also thought to be susceptible to the plague. The Bolsheviks sought to make the"ignorant and incapable mass of humanity dominant in the earth," Woodrow Wilsons Secretary of StateRobert Lansing warned. They were appealing "to the proletariat of all countries, to the ignorant andmentally deficient, who by their numbers are urged to become masters, ...a very real danger in view ofthe process of social unrest throughout the world." When soldiers and workers councils made a briefappearance in Germany, Wilson feared that they would inspire dangerous thoughts among "the Americannegro [soldiers] returning from abroad." Already, he had heard, negro laundresses were demanding morethan the going wage, saying that "money is as much mine as it is yours." Businessmen might have toadjust to having workers on their boards of directors, he feared, among other disasters, if the Bolshevikvirus were not exterminated.It was therefore necessary to defend the West from "the Revolutions challenge" at home as well. AsLansing explained, force must be used to prevent "the leaders of Bolshevism and anarchy" fromproceeding to "organize or preach against government in the United States." The repression launched bythe Wilson Administration successfully undermined democratic politics, unions, freedom of the press,and independent thought, safeguarding business interests and their control over state power. The story (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:39 PM]
  23. 23. re-enacted after World War II, again under the pretext of the Kremlin conspiracy.According to the official version, it was Soviet crimes that aroused Western antagonism. In his scholarlyhistory of Soviet-American relations, George Kennan writes that the dissolution of the ConstituentAssembly in January 1918 created the breach with the Western world with "an element of finality."British Ambassador to Petrograd Sir George Buchanan was "deeply shocked," Kennan writes, andadvocated armed intervention to punish the crime. The idealistic Woodrow Wilson was particularlydistraught, reflecting the "strong attachment to constitutionality" of the American public, deeply offendedby the sight of a government with no mandate beyond "the bayonets of the Red Guard."19A few months later, Wilsons army dissolved the National Assembly in occupied Haiti "by genuinelyMarine Corps methods," in the words of Marine commander Major Smedley Butler. The reason was thatthe Haitian legislature refused to ratify a Constitution imposed by the invaders that gave them the right tobuy up Haitis lands. A Marine-run plebiscite remedied the problem: under Washingtons guns, the US-designed Constitution was ratified by a mere 99.9 percent majority, with 5 percent of the populationparticipating. Wilsons "strong attachment to constitutionality" was unmoved by the sight of agovernment with no mandate beyond "the bayonets of the Marine occupiers"; nor Kennans. Quite thecontrary. To this day the events figure in the amusing reconstructions entitled "history" as an illustrationof US "humanitarian intervention," and its difficulties (for us). Gone from "history" along with thisepisode is the restoration of virtual slavery, Marine Corps massacres and terror, the dismantling of theconstitutional system, and the takeover of Haiti by US corporations, much as in the neighboringDominican Republic, where Wilsons invading armies were only a shade less destructive, perhapsbecause their racist barbarism did not reach such extreme levels when confronting "spics" instead of"niggers." Go to the next segment.19 Kennan, Russia, 352 63. (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:39 PM]
  24. 24. Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 9/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetAccordingly, Wilson is revered as a great moral teacher and the apostle of self-determination andfreedom, and we may now consider returning to the heady days of Wilsonian idealism. The Bolsheviks,in contrast, had so violated our high ideals that they had to be overthrown by force.Following the same high principles, the US enthusiastically welcomed the "fine young revolution"carried out by Benito Mussolini in Italy in 1922, as the American Ambassador described the impositionof Fascism. Well into the 1930s, Mussolini was that "admirable Italian gentleman," in the words of theman who (falsely) took credit for the Constitution imposed upon Haiti, President Franklin DelanoRoosevelt. Fascist atrocities were acceptable because they blocked the threat of a second Russia, theState Department explained. Hitler was supported as a "moderate" for the same reason. In 1937, the StateDepartment saw fascism as compatible with US economic interests, and also the natural reaction of "therich and middle classes, in self-defense" when the "dissatisfied masses, with the example of the Russianrevolution before them, swing to the Left." Fascism therefore "must succeed or the masses, this timereinforced by the disillusioned middle classes, will again turn to the left." US diplomat William Bullitt(Kennans mentor), leaving his post as Ambassador to Moscow in 1936, "believed that only NaziGermany could stay the advance of Soviet Bolshevism into Europe," Daniel Yergin observes -- not, ofcourse, by conquest. The US business world grasped the point. Major US corporations were heavilyinvolved in German war production, sometimes enriching themselves (notably, the Ford motor company)by joining in the plunder of Jewish assets under Hitlers Aryanization program. "U.S. investment inGermany accelerated rapidly after Hitler came to power," Christopher Simpson writes, increasing "bysome 48.5 percent between 1929 and 1940, while declining sharply everywhere else in continentalEurope" and barely holding steady in Britain.Similar conceptions are currently being revived by right-wing German historians, who argue that Hitlersinvasion of Russia may be regarded as "objectively a preventive war," since "a group of people, whethera class or a Volk, that is threatened with annihilation by another group, defends itself and has afundamental right to defend itself"; "Hitler had good reasons to be convinced of the determination of hisenemies [the Bolsheviks and the Jews] to annihilate him" (Ernst Nolte). Parts of this picture may wellbecome the accepted doctrine of the future, given its utility for power interests, though presumably wewill not return to the mid-1930s, when Bullitt attributed diplomatic problems to the fact that the RussianForeign Office "has been purged recently of all its non-Jewish members, and it is perhaps only naturalthat we should find the members of that race more difficult to deal with than the Russians themselves," inparticular a "wretched little kike" whose influence he deplored. We may also anticipate furtherreconsideration of the failure to follow through on the opportunities for a separate peace with Hitler thatwould have left the Germans and the Russians to slaughter one another, with the US and Britain standingback until it came time to pick up the pieces.20 (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:41 PM]
  25. 25. Gaddis and other serious historians recognize, the Cold War began in 1917, not 1945. Whatever onebelieves about the post-World War II period, no one regarded the USSR as a military threat in earlieryears, though it was agreed that the virus had to be contained and if possible destroyed -- much the samepolicies adopted at once after World War II. By then, the "rotten apple" had grown to include EasternEurope, undermining Western access to traditional resources. Its ability "to spoil the barrel" had alsoincreased, again, not only in the South. The Communists are able to "appeal directly to the masses,"President Eisenhower complained. His Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, deplored the Communist"ability to get control of mass movements," "something we have no capacity to duplicate." "The poorpeople are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich." In July 1945, amajor study of the State and War Departments warned of "a rising tide all over the world wherein thecommon man aspires to higher and wider horizons." Russias "actions in the past few years give us noassured bases for supposing she has not flirted with the thought" of expanding "her influence over theearth" by associating with these dangerous currents. Russia "has not yet proven that she is entirelywithout expansionist ambitions" of this kind.Furthermore, the USSR had now become a major military force. While planners never expected anunprovoked Soviet attack, they were concerned that the USSR might react to the reconstruction of itstraditional enemies, Germany and Japan, as part of a hostile military alliance that constituted a severesecurity threat, Western analysts recognized. That aside, Soviet power was a deterrent to the exercise offorce by the US and its allies; and for its own cynical reasons, the USSR often lent support to targets ofUS attack and subversion, thus interfering with "stability." Its very existence as a major power provided acertain space for nonalignment and a degree of independence in the Third World. Lesser "rotten apples"posed no such dangers.It should be stressed that Stalins awesome crimes were of no concern to Truman and other high officials.Truman liked and admired Stalin, and felt that he could deal with him as long as the US got its way 85percent of the time. Other leading figures agreed. As with a host of other murderers and torturers oflesser scale, the unacceptable crime is disobedience; the same is true of priests who preach "thepreferential option for the poor," secular nationalists in the Arab world, Islamic Fundamentalists,democratic socialists, or independent elements of any variety.If we can extricate ourselves from convenient mythology, the picture in Indochina comes into focus. Itwas Ho Chi Minhs "ultranationalism" that made him unacceptable, not his services to the "Kremlinconspiracy" or "Soviet expansion," except in the Orwellian sense of these terms. Go to the next segment.20DD, ch. 1.4. Simpson, Splendid, ch. 5. Yergin, Shattered Peace, 24 26. Nolte cited by ThomasSheehan, NY Review, Jan. 14, 1993. (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:41 PM]
  26. 26. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [10/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 10/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet5. Varieties of InfamyThe quincentenary provided many opportunities to examine "the murder of history," apart from theobvious ones. Some were taken. The 500th year opened in October 1991 with a flood of commentary onthe 50th anniversary of Japans December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor. There was wonder and dismay overJapans singular unwillingness to acknowledge its guilt for "the date which will live in infamy," andsober ruminations on Japans disgraceful "self-pity" and refusal to offer reparations to its victims, its"clumsy attempts to sanitize the past," and failure to "come forward with a definitive statement ofwartime responsibility," as Tokyo correspondent Steven Weisman framed the issues in a New York TimesMagazine cover story on "Pearl Harbor in the Mind of Japan." These deliberations were carefully craftedto highlight Japans major crime: its "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor. Among the issues scrupulouslyexcised were the US attitude towards Japans horrifying rampages before the infamous date, and the greatpower interactions that lie not very deep in the background. And one would have to search diligently fora discussion of the proper rank, in the scale of atrocities, of an attack on a naval base in a US colony thathad been stolen from its inhabitants by force and guile just 50 years earlier -- another part of thebackground that slipped by virtually unnoticed, as did the centenary of the latter deed in January 1993.More remarkable still was another anniversary passed over in silence at the very same moment: thethirtieth anniversary of John F. Kennedys escalation of the US intervention in South Vietnam. Autumn1961 was a fateful moment in the history of US assault against Indochina, one of the most shameful anddestructive episodes of the 500-year conquest.On October 11, 1961, Kennedy ordered dispatch of a US Air Force Farmgate squadron to SouthVietnam, 12 planes especially equipped for counterinsurgency warfare, soon authorized "to flycoordinated missions with Vietnamese personnel in support of Vietnamese ground forces." On December16, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, whom JFK had put in charge of running the war, authorizedtheir participation in combat operations against southerners resisting the violence of the US-imposedterror state or living in villages out of government control. These were the first steps in engaging USforces directly in bombing and other combat operations in South Vietnam from 1962, along withsabotage missions in the North. These 1961-1962 actions laid the groundwork for the huge expansion ofthe war in later years, with its awesome toll.21State terror had already taken perhaps 75,000 lives in the southern sector of Vietnam since Washingtontook over the war directly in 1954. But the 1954-1961 crimes were of a different order: they belong to thecategory of crimes that Washington conducts routinely, either directly or through its agents, in its variousterror states. In the fall and winter of 1961-1962, Kennedy added the war crime of aggression to thealready sordid record, also raising the attack to new heights. (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:44 PM]
  27. 27. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [10/17]6. Varieties of CrimeNot all crimes are of the same order; it is worthwhile to distinguish terror from aggression, howeveracademic the distinction may seem to the victims. To illustrate, take a contemporary example, one ofthose that receives little notice and that demonstrates, once again, the utter irrelevance of theconventional Cold War pretexts served up by the murderers of history when public concern over criminalactions has to be allayed. Consider Colombia, second only to El Salvador as a recipient of US militaryaid in Latin America. The State Department Country Reports for 1990 states that "Members and units ofthe army and the police participated in a disturbing number of human rights violations includingextrajudicial executions, torture, and massacres." "Yet no security assistance has been withheld as aresult of widespread violations by aid recipients" (the security forces), Americas Watch comments. Infiscal 1991, Colombia received $27.1 million in military assistance and $20 million in police aid, alongwith $50 million in Economic Support Funds for counter-narcotics assistance -- funds commonly usedfor repression, with no drug connection, as widely reported. In March 1990, two high-ranking Colombiangenerals informed Congress that "the generals would use $38.5 million of the $40.3 million originallyappropriated for fiscal year 1990 counter-narcotics assistance for counter-insurgency support in areaswhere narcotics trafficking was nonexistent," Americas Watch notes, citing a congressional report.For fiscal year 1992, Colombia was scheduled to receive $58 million in military assistance and $20million for the police; the same amount was requested for fiscal 1993. From 1988 to 1991, US militaryaid to Colombia increased sevenfold, keeping pace with atrocities by the security forces. The 117 USmilitary advisers are more than twice the number allowed by Congress for El Salvador (whatever theactual numbers may have been). Over 3000 cases of abuse by police and military were reported fromJanuary 1990 to April 1991, according to a study by the Colombian Attorney General, including 68massacres, 560 murders, 664 cases of torture, and 616 disappearances. This is apart from the atrocitiescarried out by paramilitary groups that operate with the tolerance of the government, if not directparticipation. As usual in the US-backed terror states, the major targets are political dissidents, unionleaders, and others who seek to organize the rabble, thus interfering with the service role assigned to theSouth.22 Go to the next segment.21 FRUSV, I, 343; III, 4n. Gibbons, US Government, 70 1, citing Air Force history.22Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform in Colombia: the Violence Continues (New York,1992), citing State Department Country Reports, 1990, and House Committee on GovernmentOperations, Stopping the Flood of Cocaine with Operation Snowcap: Is it Working?, Aug. 14, 1990, pp.83 4. Jorge Gómez Lizarro, human rights activist and former Judge, "Colombian Blood, U.S. Guns," (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:44 PM]
  28. 28. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [10/17]NYT, Op Ed, Jan. 28, 1992. (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:44 PM]
  29. 29. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [11/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 11/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetThese are familiar conditions of life in US domains; Colombian state terror is beyond the norm, but otherclients are expected to act the same way when circumstances warrant, and regularly do. In the case ofColombia, the Kennedy Administration escalated the standard procedures, helping establish more firmlythe regime of state terror as part of its general program of reinforcing the apparatus of repressionthroughout Latin America.The background is discussed by Alfredo Vásquez Carrizosa, president of the Colombian PermanentCommittee for Human Rights. "Behind the façade of a constitutional regime," he observes, "we have amilitarized society under the state of siege provided" by the 1886 Constitution, which grants a wide rangeof rights, but with no relation to reality. "In this context poverty and insufficient land reform have madeColombia one of the most tragic countries of Latin America." Land reform, which "has practically been amyth," was legislated in 1961, but "has yet to be implemented, as it is opposed by landowners, who havehad the power to stop it." The result of the prevailing misery has been violence, including La Violenciaof the 1940s and 1950s, which took hundreds of thousands of lives. "This violence has been caused notby any mass indoctrination, but by the dual structure of a prosperous minority and an impoverished,excluded majority, with great differences in wealth, income, and access to political participation.""Violence has been exacerbated by external factors," Vásquez continues. "In the 1960s the United States,during the Kennedy administration, took great pains to transform our regular armies intocounterinsurgency brigades, accepting the new strategy of the death squads." These Kennedy initiatives"ushered in what is known in Latin America as the National Security Doctrine, ...not defense against anexternal enemy, but a way to make the military establishment the masters of the game... [with] the rightto combat the internal enemy, as set forth in the Brazilian doctrine, the Argentine doctrine, theUruguayan doctrine, and the Colombian doctrine: it is the right to fight and to exterminate socialworkers, trade unionists, men and women who are not supportive of the establishment, and who areassumed to be communist extremists. And this could mean anyone, including human rights activists suchas myself."23The president of the Colombian human rights commission is reviewing facts familiar throughout LatinAmerica. Military-controlled National Security states dedicated to "internal security" by assassination,torture, disappearance, and sometimes mass murder, constituted one of the two major legacies of theKennedy Administration to Latin America, the other being the Alliance for Progress, a statistical successand social catastrophe (apart from foreign investors and domestic elites).Under Eisenhower, the acts of the client state in South Vietnam fell within the general category of US-backed state terror. But in this case, his successor did not simply extend these measures, as he did inLatin America. Rather, Kennedy moved on to armed attack, a different category of criminal behavior. (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:46 PM]
  30. 30. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [11/17]The assault that followed left three countries utterly devastated with millions dead, untold numbers ofmaimed, widows and orphans, children being killed to this day by unexploded bombs, deformed fetusesin hospitals in the South -- not the North, spared the particular atrocity of chemical warfare -- and arecord of criminal savagery that would fill many a docket, by the standards of Nuremberg. By 1967, thebitterly anti-Communist French military historian and Indochina specialist Bernard Fall warned that"Vietnam as a cultural and historic threatened with extinction... [as] ...the countryside literallydies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size." After theJanuary 1968 Tet Offensive, the onslaught became even more violent, along with "secret bombing" ofLaos and later Cambodia that added hundreds of thousands of additional casualties -- "secret," becausethe media refused to find out what was happening, or to make public what they knew.The land itself was targeted for destruction, not merely the people. Extensive regions were turned intomoonscapes. The "unprecedentedly massive and sustained expenditure of herbicidal chemical warfareagents against the fields and forests of South Vietnam...resulted in large-scale devastation of crops, inwidespread and immediate damage to the inland and coastal forest ecosystems, and in a variety of healthproblems among exposed humans," American biologist Arthur Westing concluded. The effects areenduring. The director of the Center for National Resources Management and Environmental Studies atthe University of Hanoi, biologist Vo Quy, writes that the destruction of huge areas of jungle leftgrasslands in which rat populations have exploded, destroying crops and causing disease, includingbubonic plague, which spread in South Vietnam from 1965. Defoliants eliminated half the mangroveforests of the country, leaving "a solid gray scene of death," US biologist E.W. Pfeiffer observed after avisit. Drainage of regions of the Mekong Delta by the US army in counterinsurgency operations raisedthe sulphuric acid too high for crops to grow. Large areas "that were once cool, moist, temperate andfertile are now characterised by compacted, leached earth and dry, blazing climate," Vo Quy writes, after"deliberate destruction of the environment as a military tactic on a scale never seen before." To "heal thewar-scarred country" would be a huge task under the best of circumstances.24 Go to the next segment.23 Colombia Update 1.4, Dec. 1989. DD, 501, for further discussion.24 Westing, Herbicides, 22. Vo Quy, Third World Resurgence (Penang, Malaysia), No. 26, 1992. (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:46 PM]
  31. 31. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [12/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 12/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet7. "Crime Once Exposed..."In October 1991, President Bush celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of Kennedys escalation of the war --coincidentally, opening the 500th year of the European conquest -- by intervening once again to blockEuropean and Japanese efforts to end the embargo that the US imposed in 1975 to ensure that thedesperately poor and ruined country would not recover from the "dreadful misfortunes" it had suffered.Presumably there were other reasons as well: to punish Vietnam for its failure to succumb to USviolence, to teach appropriate lessons to others who might be tempted to emulate such misbehavior,perhaps simply for revenge. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney reported to Congress that we are not yetready to grant the Vietnamese entry into the civilized world. The reason is that, like the evil Japanese, theVietnamese are still unwilling to face up to the crimes that they committed against us.The Indochina wars have not been completely erased from historical memory. From the horrifyingrecord, one issue still remains: our suffering at the hands of the Vietnamese barbarians, who, afterattacking us in South Vietnam when we were nobly defending it from its population, compounded theircrimes by refusing to dedicate themselves with sufficient zeal to accounting for the remains of theAmerican pilots they had viciously blasted from the skies over Vietnam and Laos. "Substantial progress"on the MIA issue is required as a condition for our normalizing ties with Vietnam, Secretary of StateJames Baker announced, a process that could take several years. "Despite improved cooperation," theVietnamese have a long way to go before we end the embargo that has been strangling them, deterringaid and investment from other countries reluctant to step on the toes of the Godfather and blockingassistance from international lending organizations, where the US wields an effective veto.The message has resounded in a drumbeat of articles and opinion pieces, with scarcely a departure fromdoctrinal rigor. For years, the Free Press has been reporting US outrage over the deceitful Vietnamesewho evade their responsibility for their crimes against us, without a hint that something may be amiss.Not only do we retain the abilities that so impressed de Tocqueville, destroying people with absolute"respect for the laws of humanity," but we have progressed well beyond, converting our tortured victimsinto our torturers.Admittedly, this is no innovation; rather, historical practice that goes back to the days when the authorsof the Declaration of Independence denounced the "merciless Indian savages" whom they wereexterminating and expelling, an act quite readily absorbed into the official culture of self-congratulation.We learn much by recalling the traditional principle that "Crime once exposed had no refuge but inaudacity."As noted earlier, that principle may have been in John Quincy Adamss mind when he established the (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:48 PM]
  32. 32. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [12/17]doctrine of executive war that was again implemented in Vietnam. In fact, Adams went a step beyond theportrayal of extermination as self-defense against "mingled hordes of lawless Indians and negroes." Heknew that Jackson was "a barbarian," as he privately called him, and that aggression was aggression. Ashis later confessions reveal, he also knew just who was fighting an "exterminating war." But he alsoknew that the US had the guns; and, following the principle enunciated by his favorite historian,demanded that Spain pay "a just and reasonable indemnity to the United States for the heavy andnecessary expenses which they have been compelled to incur by the failure of Spain to perform herengagements to restrain the Indians."25Tacituss principle is understood by every petty crook who knows enough to shout "Thief! Thief!" whencaught with his hands in someones pocket. It is a standard propaganda ploy, commonly adopted bypowerful states to punish their victims: Frances demand that Haiti pay a huge indemnity to compensatefor its successful slave revolt is another famous example, with consequences that still endure, twocenturies later. The technique is also routine in mainstream media analysis. Adopting it, one canoverthrow mountains of evidence exposing media subservience to state and private power by a flick ofthe wrist: simply ignore the evidence, and ask whether the crusading media have gone too far in theiradversarial stance, perhaps even threatening the democratic process in their extreme anti-establishmentbias.26Nevertheless, in the history of state violence and intellectual perfidy, it is doubtful that one can find anexample of inversion of guilt that compares with the case of the US wars in Indochina.Anyone with a lingering belief that even a wisp of principle or human concern might animate theideological managers intent on arousing furor over the MIAs can readily overcome that delusion byconsidering two crucial facts. The first is the complete lack of interest in the vastly greater number ofMIAs from earlier wars, whose remains are found accidentally to this day in European battlegrounds andeven Canada (from the US invasion in 1812), areas where no one has ever hindered any search. Thesecond decisive fact is the history of the POW/MIA campaign. It was carefully orchestrated to overcomerising public concern about US atrocities that could no longer be suppressed -- the Tacitus principle --and to derail negotiations that Nixon and Kissinger sought to evade. After 1975, the issue was exploitedas a device to continue the war by other means.The revival of the issue in the late 1980s was an entirely predictable consequence of Vietnamswithdrawal from Cambodia. Its December 1979 invasion after murderous Khmer Rouge attacks onVietnamese border areas, driving out Pol Pot and terminating his atrocities, was portrayed by US leadersand political commentators as a profound shock to their delicate sensibilities. Naturally these apostles ofGandhi and Martin Luther King, so devoted to international law, could react in only one way: by helpingto reconstitute the Khmer Rouge at the border, granting the Pol Pot government diplomatic recognition,and insisting on a central Khmer Rouge role in any settlement. To punish the perpetrators of this crime ofaggression, they also had to maintain the embargo that had been "bleeding Vietnam," as the Far EasternEconomic Review described the doctrine. When it was no longer possible to deny that Vietnam hadwithdrawn its troops from Cambodia in the context of the Paris Agreements, the cultural managers had to (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:48 PM]
  33. 33. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [12/17]revert to the earlier pretext: the failure of the Vietnamese to open their territory and archives to ourinspection without impediment, and otherwise dedicate themselves to the sole moral issue that remainsunresolved from the war. Go to the next segment.25 Weeks, op. cit.26 For a few examples, see MC, ch. 5.5.2 and App. 3; NI, App. I.2; LL, letter 18. See p. 114 below. (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:48 PM]
  34. 34. Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 13/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetMeanwhile, respectable opinion is quite untroubled by the study of the UN Transitional Authority inCambodia (UNTAC), unreported in the Free Press, which reveals that "there are indeed foreign forceswithin the meaning of the Paris Agreements operating in Cambodia, but they are from Thailand," notVietnam. Army units of this long-time US dependency "move freely in the DKZ [DemocraticKampuchea Zone, or Khmer Rouge-controlled territory] and have been accused of aiding the [KhmerRouge] militarily," UNTAC reports, while aiding Thai businessmen active in gem and timber export inareas of Cambodia controlled by the Khmer Rouge, helping to finance Khmer Rouge operations whileenriching themselves in good capitalist fashion.27We might also add a third fact: the illegal and often brutal (even murderous) treatment by the US andBritain of Italian and German POWs during and after World War II, kept secret during the war for fear ofGerman retaliation. This sorry record was exposed in the late 1970s, evoking much admiration in UScommentary right at the time when fury about the perfidious Vietnamese was being whipped to a feverpitch. But we may drop these matters; though plainly relevant, they could not possibly enter mainstreamdiscussion, or even be understood.28The embargo imposed in 1975 "had the effect intended by Washington," New York Times correspondentPhilip Shenon reports: "Malnutrition remains severe in northern and central Vietnam, and whatever thesudden wealth of many residents of Ho Chi Minh City, visitors to the city are often swarmed by familiesof homeless beggars," a vivid refutation of the claim that the US lost the war. "Vietnams war-shatteredeconomy has now only begun to recover" after 17 years in which the US "cut off not only the legalsupply of American goods but also aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and otherinternational lending agencies." "Most Vietnamese are dirt-poor now," the Far Eastern Economic Reviewreports, "but the economy is expected to boom once the embargo is dropped" and Vietnam can "becomea low-wage platform for exporters of manufactured goods" -- foreign investors, who can enefit from theUS policy of first destroying and then bleeding Vietnam. The Review reports the concern of US firmsthat rivals from other countries may beat them out. "US companies have suffered irretrievable market-share losses in Vietnam," the director of a trade and investment company complains, as competitors havebegun to break the US-imposed embargo. US firms want Washington to continue to "shut the door ofinternational financial institutions to Vietnam" to prevent any recovery until the embargo is lifted, so thatthey can gain their proper share, recognizing, as the Financial Times reports, that "Funds from the WorldBank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, currently blocked byWashington, are urgently needed" if there is to be any substantial recovery -- or profits.29Blood-lust has its merits, but money talks even louder. The embargo has plainly outlived its usefulness."The Japanese do not hide their enthusiasm for the skills and dedication -- and low wages -- of (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:50 PM]
  35. 35. workers," Victor Mallet reports in the Financial Times. They are preparing to invest tobenefit from these useful consequences of the American war and postwar strangulation. But theGodfather has not lost his clout entirely: "the Japanese government and Japanese companies are stillanxious not to offend the US by undertaking high-profile projects in Vietnam," Mallet reports, and arestill "very, very cautious," a Mitsui representative adds. But they are moving forward slowly, frighteningAmerican firms."Through the 1980s, U.S. officials emphasized that Vietnam should end its occupation of Cambodiabefore the U.S. embargo could be lifted," Robert Greenberger reports in the Wall Street Journal: "AfterVietnam withdrew its troops, the U.S. then stressed the need to resolve the MIA and POW issues beforerelations could be restored," and now Washington "is under pressure from American companies toresolve the [MIA] issue so that they... [will not] left behind in the race for access to Vietnamsmarkets and resources, including potentially rich offshore oil deposits." No conclusion is drawn from thistransparent charade.Like a good and loyal trooper, Steven Holmes reports in the New York Times that the BushAdministration is moving to ease the trade embargo in "response to what the Administration sees asgreater Vietnamese cooperation in the search for American servicemen still missing from the Vietnamwar." The headline reads: "Hanois Help With M.I.As Leads to Easing of Embargo." True, "business andtrade organizations have also been lobbying the Administration to loosen the embargo," fearing that"they will lose out to Japanese companies in the Vietnam market"; and they "believe that there is moremoney to be made in Vietnam in the next 10 years" than in China. But the doctrinal truths are unshaken:it is Vietnams greater willingness to face up to its crimes against us that led Mr. Bush to ease the tradeembargo, an act that "signals a clear warming toward Vietnam after decades of bitterness and distrustspawned by Hanois invasion of Cambodia, its unwillingness to be forthcoming about the fate of missingAmericans and lingering resentment toward Vietnam for having defeated the United States" -- the last, aninteresting departure from ritual.Though Administration officials "have praised Hanoi for meeting a number of the conditions set by thepresident last year," Pamela Constable reports, "to many Americans...none of these arguments carryenough weight to overcome the deep bitterness, mistrust and hostility that linger" towards "an adversarythat has delayed, deceived, and resisted legitimate US demands on the missing servicemen for years."Eager to resume ties with the US, the Vietnamese Government "is careful not to offend American visitorsby suggesting directly that the sacrifice of Vietnamese families was greater than that of families in theUnited States," Philip Shenon adds.30The drama continued through 1992. A year after he celebrated JFKs aggression by extending the USembargo, President Bush announced, in properly statesmanlike terms, that "It was a bitter conflict, butHanoi knows today that we seek only answers without the threat of retribution for the past." We cannever forgive them for what they have done to us, but "we can begin writing the last chapter of theVietnam war" if they turn from other pursuits to locating the remains of missing Americans. The adjacentfront-page story reports the visit of the Japanese Emperor to China, where he failed to "unambiguously"accept the blame "for [Japans] wartime aggression," revealing again the deep flaw in the Japanese (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:50 PM]
  36. 36. that so sorely puzzles American commentators.31 Go to the next segment.27Nayan Chanda, Far Eastern Economic Review, Dec. 17, 1992. A Thai intelligence report estimatesthat the projected cash flow "dwarfs the combined revenues of the three other factions, and could becomea decisive factor in the power struggle" that may restore the Thai backed Khmer Rouge to power. KenStier, FEER, Jan. 21, 1993.28 See PEHR, vol. II, 35ff.29 Shenon, NYT, Dec. 26, 1992; FEER, Jan. 7, 1993; Victor Mallet, FT, Dec. 16, 1992.30 Holmes, NYT, Dec. 15; Constable, BG, Nov 22; Shenon, Nov. 30, 1992.31 NYT, Oct. 24, 1992. (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:50 PM]